ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst reports the Lakers have acquired point guard Ramon Sessions from the Cavs in exchange for their first round pick in 2012. The Lakers will also receive second year wing player Christian Eyenga, and in addition to the pick will send out Luke Walton and his Everlasting Gobstopper contract to Cleveland, along with Jason Kapono.
This, people, is a very, very good deal, for the following reasons:
Sessions is a major upgrade for the Lakers at point guard. He's averaging 10.5 points and 5.2 assists per game in only 24.5 minutes. To this point in the season, L.A.'s PG's have averaged 12 points a game as a group, the lowest figure in the NBA. Needless to say this sort of production makes a huge difference. More importantly, he has a skill set badly needed by the Lakers, namely an ability to run the pick and roll, penetrate from the wing, and finish from the basket. Derek Fisher and Steve Blake average about one shot a game at the rim between the two of them. Even when they're in the paint, they're not a threat to score. Sessions absolutely is, which will change the way defenses have to address Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol down low.
The Lakers preserved their trade exception. Meaning whether now or down the line, the can find a player (or players) able to upgrade the roster at other positions. They also retain another pick in this year's draft, which they can either use or flip as needed. Moreover, by moving Walton, they're able to absorb Sessions' salary this year and next, should he decide to pick up his $4.5 million player option.
They've taken pressure off Kobe Bryant. By having another player on the floor who can reliably direct the offense, distribute to the bigs, and is a threat to score, Mike Brown and Co. will have much more freedom to move him away from the ball, creating better and more efficient shot opportunities. Meanwhile, you can still run the Bryant/Gasol/Bynum pick-and-roll sets that have been so effective for the Lakers this season.
Questionable outside shooting (until this season, at least) and an underwhelming defensive profile mean Sessions isn't an elite level point guard. If he was, a first round pick and Luke Walton wouldn't have brought him here. Except the Lakers don't need that. On a per minute basis, Sessions has always been a very productive player, and even if he's merely league-average he will elevate the rotation in tangible ways.
There are a few potential issues. If the Lakers end the day with both Blake and Fisher still on the roster, Brown will have to figure out how to work his rotation. From a pure basketball standpoint, Sessions would receive the bulk of the minutes backed up by Blake, and Fisher would pile up DNP's more nights than not. On the Lakers, that presents a few political problems that could impact the team dynamic. But this is the sort of thing that can be worked out. Brown will also have to get Sessions up to speed defensively very quickly. Again, that's something that can be done.
The bottom line is this: The Lakers, without giving up any truly significant assets and retaining the significant advantage provided by two immensely skilled seven footers inside have improved themselves at their greatest weak spot. If Sessions performs as expected, he pushes them very near the top of the Western Conference. Are they better than Oklahoma City? I'd still say no . . . but they're a lot closer, and have given themselves a legitimate chance to make a run this postseason.